Technology | July 15, 2022

Quantum computing and the quantum internet: What they are and how they work

I’m one of the old millennials who were born without the internet and slowly discovered it as it expanded around the world. It first arrived at our homes through phone lines. Then came ADSL, optic fiber, and satellites that allow you to connect from wherever you are. But for quite some time, people have been talking about the quantum internet and how it could revolutionize the way we live and connect. What is this all about?

Let’s take it slow because it’s a bit complex. To understand the quantum internet, we first need to understand quantum computing. These computers will solve problems much quicker than “traditional” computers. Why? Well, current computers use a basic unit of information called “bit” that, as you may know, can have one of two possible values: 0 or 1. Quantum computers, on the other hand, use “qubits” —kind of like a quantum bit. The thing about qubits is that their value can be both 1 and 0 simultaneously. 

This means that two qubits can contain four values at the same time, three qubits can contain eight, four can contain 16, and so on. Therefore, quantum computational power is exponential.

Also, they are capable of being at two different places simultaneously and moving in two opposite directions at the same time. In quantum physics, this is known as superposition, and it could present endless possibilities.

For example, quantum computers could solve unsolvable equations that existing computers cannot tackle. So, they have potential use cases in all fields, especially those in which computing power is crucial, such as cybersecurity, manufacturing, the chemical industry, the energy sector, etc.

And here’s where the quantum internet comes in. It can create a world where communication would be much faster and —at least in theory— completely secure. Let’s see why. 

Qubits cannot be hacked because, unlike current communication, they have the properties of quantum particles. As research shows, merely observing these particles changes their behavior. Therefore, if a message is intercepted, the recipient will find out because qubits change when observed or intercepted, altering the content of the message.

Although we still don’t know how long it will take for this technology to be implemented and adopted at scale, many companies —like GoogleIBM, and Microsoft— and government agencies from all around the world —including China and the United States— are investing in this field to become the pioneers of the quantum revolution.

By Axel Marazzi

Axel is a journalist who specializes in technology and writes for media such as RED/ACCIÓN, Revista Anfibia, and collaborates with the Inter-American Development Bank. He has a newsletter, Observando, and a podcast, Idea Millonaria.

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